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Agronomy Action Steps

Foundational steps to take that will up your agronomy game and mitigate risk on your farm with Jason Maschhoff, Agronomist



Intro 

Jason Maschhoff is an in-house NutraDrip agronomist and has worked with growers throughout the Midwest for many years. He has experience in the crop insurance world and is passionate about helping growers mitigate risks on their farm. These are some foundational steps he recommends taking to decrease risk and increase yields and yield stability in your farming operation.  

SDI (subsurface drip irrigation) 

We at NutraDrip feel like one of the best tools for risk management, increasing yields and bringing yield stability to your operation is subsurface drip irrigation. If you are at all interested in a system, let us know. It takes time to get an estimate and plan the best system for you. 

Water Quality in Irrigation AND SPRAY WATER 

Greg Creson takes a deep dive into water quality (watch his video here). Water quality is another foundational step to hitting the yield goals you have. Koertland is our in-house research and water quality expert. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to get in touch with him (email koertland@nutradrip.com).  

Please keep in mind that if your spray water is from a different source, it will need tested just like your irrigation water. If you are spraying with high-bicarbonate water, it could potentially tie up foliars, biologicals, herbicides, etc.  

Soil Moisture Monitoring 

There are multiple options for soil moisture monitoring. Travis Rokey discusses fixed moisture probes here. We want to help you discern what is the best for your operation. Another option that is rapidly advancing is virtual probes. The Irriwatch platform is currently being used by different growers that work with NutraDrip, and we are excited to see the data from those. Currently, Irriwatch provides one thermal satellite image each day. Their plan is to launch a new set of satellites soon to complement their first one. It’ll go up on Space X. Their goal is to get two thermal images per day, every day of the year, around the globe.  They are investing in this technology, and as we grow with them, we hope to get more data, better data, better resolutions, to help you manage your farm. 

One major benefit of Irriwatch is the ability to monitor your whole farm and see trends. Jason states: “I used it this year on some clients where I saw some areas that the plant health was degrading. I could send them a screenshot of it and said, hey, go walk this field. From a directed scouting tool, this is a great place for your whole farm operation to consider.” 

 



The yield map on the left is a harvested field from the fall of 2023. It is irrigated via pivot. One benefit of Irriwatch is that we are able to get all the data from last year on that farm. If you look at the bottom left quadrant, there is a lack of yield. We were able to separate that quadrant out and will get all the thermal imagery data from the past year, dissect it, and see what we learn. The goal of that being that we may be able to have some effect in 2024 to prevent repeating the past year's problem. 

What do you need to enroll in Irriwatch? “If you have fields that you want to look back on, or you want to enroll a couple of fields this year, we just need a shape file of that field. We will go ahead and get you logged into the IrriWatch system. You'll have an account and we will be able to see that data and work alongside you. I would recommend trying one or two fields. I think this is a technology beyond irrigation that's going to continue to bring its value.” (Jason Maschhoff) 

Know your soil: Baseline Rx with Agronomy 365 

Any agronomist will tell you to do soil tests. Baseline RX does a lot more than your standard soil test. 




 

A standard analysis generally includes all the tests on the above left. Agronomy 365 includes all of these plus the tests on the right. They have a heavy focus on biology. You'll see terms like VAST and SLAN and HT3. VAST is a test for soil structure, SLAN tests late season nitrogen release. HT3 tests biological activity and H3A is a Haney test.  We've seen great value in this added layer for soil sampling. This would replace a grid sample.  




 

Above is an example of a field that was from Indiana. This one's almost 100 percent the same soil type. The topography of the field is on the right. Baseline Rx creates zones instead of grids.  



They have a proprietary process that uses bare soil images, LIDAR and flow and accumulation of water and melts these three together. If you submit a field to Baseline Rx, you will end up with something that looks like this: 

 



There are 10 different zones for this field; in reality they usually push the field in to 3-5 management zones, as 10 is a lot with too many small pockets to manage.  




 

They will then create a map with sample points, and you will sample within each zone a certain amount of times to form a composite. If you have five zones in a field, you will submit five sample bags; one from each zone that is a composite. 




 

These are the samples from the field above. If you look closely, you can see the difference in coloration between the different zones and soils. This field is almost 100% the same soil type, but they are still able to separate the soil out based on their proprietary methodology.  

“Our goal is once we create your base layer, we're going to ask you, what equipment do you have, how can you apply fertilizer, how does your operation work, and we want to make fertility recommendations prior to you going to the field, and timing as well, but we want to say we want X amount of this with the planner. You're set up on the planner if you have Y drops, we're going to push this to your Y drops. We want to give you that detailed of a roadmap as you go to the field. Here's an action step. Zone creation might be a little bit different what you're used to. I would try a field or 2. I would say, if you can start now and research that and get comfortable with it, and we make some differences on a field or 2, you're ready to roll for 2025 and maybe incorporate more into your operation. Spending that time to do a little research now, we'll get you a little bit ahead of the game.” (Jason Maschhoff) 

 

In Season Soil and Tissue Testing: Agronomy 365 

The best way to manage nutrition is to “marry up” in season soil and tissue samples with fertility samples that were taken in the spring. NutraDrip recommends using the same lab for it all; the goal is to find trends. It will take one or two years of doing in season soil and tissue samples to delineate what is a trend, and what is normal for your farm. Instead of being reactionary, these results will help us learn if and when plants are taking up nutrients. Pre-season planning decisions based on a year or two of data will mostly likely look a lot different than reacting to samples in season, and hoping for the best.  

 



This is an in season sampling package. One note on Agronomy365: they have developed a test for in season tissue samples where they sample just the midrib of the plant. They have found when they analyze the midrib vs. the leaf outside, they get 1-2 weeks ahead of what is going to show up on the leaf. It gives you a little look ahead. This is fairly new, so we are looking forward to seeing the results this coming year.  

Conclusion 

Our overall goal with these recommendations is to mitigate risk and increase yield and yield stability on your operation. Some of these technologies are newer, and we would love to provide you with the tools to try them and learn about your soil and agronomy practices. Please contact us at sales@nutradrip.com if interested in any of these services.  

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